30 August 2016

Shambala Festival 2016

Well, that weekend flew by, but now that I'm back, rested, washed and finally sober, I guess you'll want to know all about Shambala festival 2016.
This years Shambala was particularly excellent, we saw some amazing bands/shows and took part in some brilliant workshops...but I'll come back to that, we all know that what you really want to see is the costumes!
So this year I was tasked with making not one but two costumes, one for me and one for my best mate. The theme for this year was 'myths and monsters' so I kinda went along the lines of making up my own monsters.
Both of the masks were made out of crochet (that was the easy part). I then backed it onto a wire and papier-mache frame, which had buckles and cords to attach it to our heads.
The black of the mouths was made with a sheer black fabric so we could still see through it, and it was attached with elastic so we could pull it down and still drink (very important).
With both of the masks I used acrylic yarn, mostly from my odds and ends hamper, but stuck a bit of neon yellow, pink and green in there so it was really bright.
I made some paper templates before doing the crochet just so I had a rough idea where the mouths would need to be and get an idea of composition, but overall it mostly a lot of freestyling.
One of my favourite things about wearing crochet costumes is when people recognise it for what it is. There were a few people that asked if it was knitting/crochet, and they seemed a lot more perplexed when this was confirmed (maybe due to it being a mask rather than a garment, it almost seemed that they couldn't believe it was handmade).
Now: reader beware, here comes the 'I want to explain my influences but it may make me sound like a certain type of stereotypical pretentious middle-class white guy' bit. A couple of people commented that the masks and costumes kinda gave off African (or possibly Aztec/Mayan) vibes - this didn't surprise me as there were a lot of influences relating to that in my creation process. 
Whilst making the masks I'd been reading a lot of Nigerian literature, one example being one of my favourite authors named Amos Tutuola. It is also from his most famous book 'The Palm-Wine Drinkard' that I took the quotes that are on the coconut shell necklaces - and yes I broke, sanded and painted the shells myself. The visualisation of folk-tales and animist subjects that run through his books was a big influence on my imagination for these costumes.
But I'd also been reading other books on subjects like Peruvian shamanism and African textiles, so it was really clear to me where my influences lay. It can be a fine line between being influenced by other cultures and misappropriation, but I'd like to think that I'm clear enough on my influences and that my own creativity also comes through......I did warn you that it might get a bit pretentious.
Anyway, as you might have guessed quite a lot of work went into both costumes. As well as all the crochet I threaded every necklace myself, tore up the fabric strips and me and my mate did the tie dye together too (although it ended up coming out a bit fainter than planned).
Unfortunately on the Saturday (which is traditionally fancy dress/costume day) we had torrential downpours, with a thunder and lightening storm which seemed to circle the site for hours). Because of this we weren't able to wear the costumes all day but got dressed up as soon as it stopped raining.
But even with the rain it was still a hell of a lot of fun. As you can see in the photo above plenty of people still powered through and made the effort with their costumes despite the British weather.
So those were this years costumes, who knows what I'll do with them now, maybe I'll put them in some sort of box frame. Well now that the costumes have been dealt with, those of you who follow my yearly festival shenanigans will know there's more crochet to come....
....Every year I make a gift to give out to a random person, just to be nice. This year was no exception.
To start with I made this bracelet using crochet tapestry and hand-sewn beading. But seeing as I made two costumes, I figured I should make two gifts.
So I also made this necklace. Both were given out to people selected completely at random. It's a great feeling to give something with no reasoning or ultimatum, people are generally confused and then shocked when they realise what is happening. But wait there's more, last year I also made a gift for a child, as Shambala is a very family friendly festival.
So I also made this cute little beetle/bug and gave it to a toddler that was with it's parents by the main stage. I also made this little purple scarab beetle for no particular purpose so gave it to some guy that was whittling a spoon in the woods...as you do.
So there we go, that's all of my creations from the festival. So now I'm gonna show you some other cool creative stuff I found around the festival.
How's about a Yarn-bombed Ice Cream van?!! An ice cream van selling knitted finger puppets no less!!!
It was all by a company called Little Fingy. So the van got our attention, the finger puppets drew us in, and inside we discovered this guy selling the puppets!
That's some proper crochet granny square lovin right there! I couldn't help myself and bought a little mouse puppet for the lovely wife. There was plenty of cool non-crochet stuff though, and most of it could be found in the enchanted woods.
We both particularly liked these hanging mirrored LED cubes. When you looked into the side of them you got an infinite reflection type thing going on.
They also appeared to change colour in relation to the sounds around it....although we did struggle to figure out whether this was happening or if we were just too drunk.
As well as the cubes there was also this awesome video piece that again used mirrors. You put your hand in a hole and it created a kaleidoscopic feedback effect.
And finally, there were these hanging fibre-optic LED's suspended from and wrapped around the trees. 
Not only did it look cool but people were really enjoying wrapping themselves up in lights that hung down to the ground.
So yeah, that was a very visual account of this years Shambala. What things did I enjoy most I hear you ask? Well....
Workshop highlights: Shaman Drumming, Afon Systema Maracatu Drumming, Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi.
Music Highlights: Nightmares on Wax, Dele Sosimi, The Comet Is Coming (these guys were absolutely amazing).
Food Highlights: Surprisingly for me, everything was awesome (I say surprising cos it was all meat-free this year and I'm a total carnivore), in particular the Dosa Deli Indian Savoury Crispy Pancakes and the Pho Sho Vietnamese-style baguettes were out of this world.

So that's it for this year, unfortunately I don't know what I'll do next year, as my best buddy Broughton is entering the adult world of parenthood so won't be able to come with me next year. In some ways it's the end of a very drunken era. But I love Shambala so much, I don't think it'll be my last time in Utopia.
Hope you all enjoyed the madness and the massive blog post. Until next time - peace out x

08 July 2016

sunshine and shell stitches

Ahoy hoy. I finally finished one of those side projects that I started back in May, and figured you might like to see it. This summers weather may be a bit all over the place, but I'm trying to brighten up the day with this sunshine shell stitch cardigan.
I started this cardigan when we went on holiday, and I've just kinda been making it up and working on it when I have a little spare time (not a lot of that at the moment). It's made with 'Stylecraft Special dk', and the 'special' bit does give it that little extra softness so it's not itchy to wear but also feels strong and hardy.
It's made entirely from 5tr shell stitches (and all the increases and decreases are incorporated within shells), and it gives it a surprisingly nice texture. This shade of 'sunshine' yellow seems to have been very fashionable recently....for women, I've not been able to find anything in this colour for men, so I figured I'd make something for myself.
I added some black buttons to give it a bit of contrast, but I rarely button up cardigans anyway so they're there for mostly aesthetic reasons (plus it's a little tight when done up).
I have done my usual thing, of writing notes with the intention that one day it can become a pattern, but it'll take a bit of work. Although I was happy with the way I worked out increases and decreases with shells, I made a few errors with sizing, but overall it fits me fine.
I've also been undergoing physiotherapy whilst making this cardigan as I've had a trapped nerve in my crochet arm (also doesn't help that I'm as weak as a kitten), but this has actually been quite a relaxing project. Sometimes I think the best crochet projects are the ones that are very repetitive and allow you to almost enter a meditative state.

But you'll be glad to know the therapy is really helping and I've got some hardcore crochet projects to get started on soon. Until then, peace out x

01 July 2016

Deramores Review & Free Crochet Tote Bag Pattern

Ahoy hoy. So, time for something a little bit different. Recently the lovely folks at Deramores got in touch with me. If you’re not familiar with Deramores they’re an awesome online knitting and crochet store with one of the biggest ranges of yarns and patterns in the UK. As well as stocking most of the big name yarn brands, they also do a good amount of their own brand yarn, and they kindly sent me some of this to review.
I didn’t know exactly how much yarn they were going to send me, so when I got this huge package in the post I was pretty chuffed. First out of the packet was their Vintage Chunky yarn. It's a 50/50 blend of Merino and acrylic. They sent me 3 suitable muted vintage colours, and it looks really nice. You can tell from the touch that it's a blended yarn, and its got a nice twist to it too. I was wondering what I could make with it, and then I remembered there was more to look at.
I delved further into the package and found another package inside. It contained one of their Studio DK multi colour packs. Deramores have a really good range of colour packs on their site, going from this small one to larger ones that will fulfill your needs for specific patterns. Straight away I was impressed with the colours in the small pack, they’re all bold and vibrant.

I couldn’t wait to get started having a play with it. TheDeramores own brand yarn is in fact winner of ‘Best Independent Yarn Brand’ at the British Knitting Awards for the last 3 years running, and as soon as it was in my hands I could see why. Now those of you who regularly follow my shenanigans will know that I’m a big fan of acrylic yarn. I love real wool too but when it comes down to the crunch I’m an acrylic man. There’s still a bit of snobbery towards synthetic yarns which harks back to the bad old days of cheap and nasty yarns, but in reality acrylic has come a long way. The Deramores studio yarn is actually one of the softest (if not the softest) acrylic yarns I’ve come across. At first touch you can tell it's soft, but first touches can often be deceiving. The proof came when working the yarn. Over the last week my cuticles have been torn to shreds, and because of the way I wrap yarn around my fingers, I expected it to get worse and be bleeding and getting the plasters out in no time. Fortunately I was wrong; the yarn felt lovely and soft against my fingers and didn’t aggravate my skin at all, they claim its soft enough for babies and I can agree with that - an impressive start.
I decided to try making a basic shape out of each of the different colours, to test it out a bit. I’ve got a lot of experience with acrylics, and a problem I’ve come across before is thicknesses. You can often have two different coloured DK yarns of the same brand and by the same manufacturer, but when you start working you notice one works out ever so slightly thicker/bigger than the other. This appears to be to do with the dyeing and colour process, and can happen across many different types of yarn. Normally it’s so slight that it’s not a huge problem, but if you’re doing anything patchwork related it can really throw you off size-wise. Again, I found the Deramores yarn impressive in this factor, there was little discernable difference, if any.
 In terms of quality the yarn was very good. Through each ball I found it to be very even and consistent. There is nothing that annoys me more (well, there is in the grander scheme of things) than when you get halfway through a ball of yarn and find a knot in the middle – you’ll be glad to hear there was none of that nonsense. Now, the yarn label also describes it as ‘anti-pilling’, I’ll be honest - I had to look up what this meant. Basically it means that you won’t get those annoying bobbles after washing (this is to do with the way the fibres are constructed). Oddly, I noticed the effects of this with the white and raspberry coloured yarns only, when working them you can get a little bit of fluff coming off, but nothing enough to be of concern and when the yarn is worked it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Finally, and possibly the most important factors for some, price and range of colours. The Studio DK range comes in 33 different shades and you can get the packs in a variety of amounts and colour combinations. This small Studio DK pack comes in at £10.99, and if you want to buy the balls individually it’s £1.99, which I feel is more than a fair price for such a quality product – I’ve paid about that for some real cheap and nasty yarns in the past so I’d definitely use these again. Overall I was very impressed with the yarn, and I’m not just saying that cos this is a review, I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about it.
Now, so that I could give the yarn a proper review I made a shape out of each colour, but you know what I’m like, that’s just not enough, we can’t let those shapes go to waste now can we? That’s right, it’s free pattern time! I’m going to try and start making more patterns, and I haven’t done any of that for a while so wanted to get a bit of practice. I also felt like I hadn’t given you loyal readers anything for a while either. I figured I'd write you a simple pattern, but then I thought you might like a bit of variation, so you have two sides to choose from. It should be easy enough and gives you some creative choices, so I hope you enjoy!

FREE TWO-WAY TESSALATING TOTE BAG PATTERN
You will need:
DeramoresStudio DK Multi Colour Pack (6 x 100g, 250m, 100% acrylic) containing the following shades: 
Citrine [YELLOW], Heather [PURPLE], Raspberry [RED], Lapis [BLUE], Frost [WHITE] and Malachite [GREEN]. 
3.5mm hook
Stitch markers
Wool needle

THIS PATTERN IS WRITTEN IN UK ENGLISH. FOR US TERMS JUST REPLACE DC WITH SC!!!

*Note, when fastening off always leave a tail of about a foot long to help you with the assembly – alternatively you could use a needle and cotton thread if you so desire*
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Side 1:
Main shape: (make in 3 in red, 3 in white, 3 in green, 3 in yellow, 2 in blue, 2 in purple)
Ch17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 9-14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off.
*if you need help understanding Rows 7 & 8 see image at bottom of side 2 instructions* 

Small square shape: (make 3 in yellow, 3 in purple)
Ch9
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Fasten off

Small rectangle shape: (2 in blue, 2 in purple)
Ch17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off

Backwards L shape (make 3 in green)
Ch17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 8: ch1, dc in next 8 sts (leaving remains 8 sts unworked), turn. (8dc)
Row 9 -14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (8dc)

Upside-down L shape (make 3 in blue)
Ch9
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (8dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (8dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts, turn. (16dc)
Row 9 -14: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off
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 Side 2:
Main shape: (make 3 in red, 3 in green, 3 in yellow, 3 in purple)
Ch 17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-6: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 7: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 8: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 9-13: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 14: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (16dc & 9ch)
Row 15: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remaining 8dc unworked] turn. (16dc)
Row 16-21: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc).
Fasten off.

C-Shape: (Make 1 in red, 1 in green)
Ch 17
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (16dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st across, turn. (16dc)
Row 8: ch1, dc in next 8 sts [leaving remains 8 sts unworked], turn. (8dc)
Row 9-13: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Row 14: ch1, dc in each st across, ch9, turn. (8dc & 9ch)
Row 15: dc in 2nd ch from hook and in next 7 ch, dc in next 8 sts, turn. (16dc)
Row 16-21: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (16dc)
Fasten off

Small square shape: (make 1 in red, 1 in green, 2 in yellow, 2 in purple)
Ch9,
Row 1: dc in 2nd ch from hook and each ch along, turn. (8dc)
Row 2-7: ch1, dc in each st along, turn. (8dc)
Fasten off
Illustration of Side 2 Main Piece, Rows 7-8 apply to Side 1 Main piece too
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Assembly
Lay all your shapes out beforehand so you don’t get confused with your colours. With the wrong sides of the shapes facing you, whip stitch 2 shapes together with the tails, being careful to have your stitches showing only on the wrong side. You may find it helps to join the shapes together with safety pins/stitch markers before sewing. If you find yourself unsure of where exactly to sew/join shapes, remember that horizontally it is always divisible by 8 and vertically is always divisible by 7. Weave in all ends.

Edging

With RS of Side 1 facing, join raspberry yarn in to far right hand stitch of top edge with ss, ch1 and dc across. Fasten off (64dc)
Repeat on side 2, DO NOT FASTEN OFF.
*now is a good time to place some stitch markers to help you get the edging accurate, put at least one in each corner connecting the two sides together*

With both sides against each other (and both with RS facing outwards), ch1, dc down the side edge (connecting both sides), being as even with your stitches as possible (you should have roughly 84sts), ch2 when you reach the bottom corner, then dc along bottom edge of both sides (roughly 64sts), ch2 in the next corner, then dc back up the opposite side (roughly 84sts). Fasten off and weave in all ends.

Straps
Straps (make 2)
Using Red, ch101
Row 1 (RS): dc in 2nd ch from hook and each st across. Fasten off. (100dc)
Join Yellow with ss into 1st st of row 1,
Row2 (RS): ch 1, dc across. Fasten off (100dc)

Sew one end of strap to stitches 21 & 22 of top edge of one side of bag, and sew other end of strap to stitches 43 & 44 on same edge. Repeat with second strap on other side of bag. Weave in all ends
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There you go, all finished. Have fun, Peace out!

[The Transparency Bit - Deramores kindly supplied me with the yarn to review and make this pattern with for free, but I have not been paid to review these products. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Deramores.]

[The Legal Bit -  I am happy for you to print this pattern for yourself, and I do not mind if you want to use it at crochet classes or groups. I retain copyright. I only ask that you do not sell works made from this pattern, and do not publish or replicate on any other websites or publications without prior permission - linking to the pattern/my blog is fine. Basically, I don't copy, neither should you!]

13 June 2016

Briswool 2016

Hello there. I've been out and about yet again (I do still crochet honest!). On Saturday I headed over the bridge to catch the last weekend of Briswool.
Briswool is a project started/organised by Vicky Harrison of Bristol's The Paper Village. I first encountered Vicky a couple of years back when I stumbled upon her amazing shop, which is just around the corner from my best mates house. She's an amazing woman whose passion for crafts just pours out. As soon as she let me know that Briswool was having a major exhibition I knew I would end up going......now prepare to have your mind blown!
Briswool is basically a community project that Vicky organised where members of the public and the Paper Village staff (including Vicky herself) knitted or crocheted iconic buildings or features of the Bristol landscape.
Vicky is the creative genius that, as well as organising the project, assembled it into one cohesive installation. She also ran many workshops and provided inspiration so that knitters and crocheters of all skill levels could help contribute towards the project. The level of detail was incredible, and from first glance you can only wonder at the amount of time it must have taken to put it all together.
One of the things that really impressed me was when you looked at some of the more famous Bristol landmarks like the Clifton suspension bridge or the row of colourful houses (they probably have a specific name). As impressive as they are by themselves, you also can't help but notice all the work that went into things like the trees, the patchwork grass, and the sculptural elements that accentuate the hill and the gorge.
In fact the level of detail over the whole project was spectacular. The boats, cars and hot air balloons were so unbelievably cute. The smallest touches were often what really spoke to people. I talked to my friend who had also seen the exhibition, and he also commented that the little cars and bikes were some of his favourite parts. There was also lots of 'in-jokes' and special touches for the locals, such as the Bristol crocodile, the whale, a Gromit statue and the graffiti Bee, to name just a few.
Being a community project, Vicky also did an excellent job at appealing to the wider public, not just to us craft geeks. There was a specific area to sit and knit and crochet, a sample board where you could touch certain pieces of work (which was very popular with kids), a collection of pieces that hadn't made it into the final landscape, and a huge balloon-themed comment board. You could see from the general crowd that was going to see the exhibition that it had something to offer to all kinds of people.
Even some of the buildings which, when you think about it, could quite easily have been kept relatively simple, were embellished with such intricacy that you could spend ages looking at each one. You would be looking and then all of a sudden spot the tiny Bristol zoo sign, or the delicately embroidered numbers on the clock face.
There was something about the house above in particular that really impressed me. I struggle to put my finger on what it is exactly, but to me everything about it just seems so perfect.
Briswool appears to have been an amazing success by all accounts. Vicky, her team, and all those who contributed should truly be proud of themselves. I'm sure we'll see many more huge creative projects from Vicky in the future, but it'll certainly be hard to top this. My photo's can't even do the scale of this project justice, it really was a mammoth piece of work. Vicky - I raise my glass to you!

Oooooh, but now it's done, who knows if and when it'll see light again. Well, if you're after another reason to head to Bristol (not that you need a reason, it's an awesome city and you can always head over to The Paper Village and support Vicky and her team by buying some crafty goodness or doing a workshop), there is also another really interesting exhibition on at the moment.

Art From Elsewhere is an exhibition showing the work of 32 artists from 22 countries and is being shown in The Arnolfini and The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
'Sleeper 2, 3 & 4' C-print photographs by Yto Barrada (b.1971, Paris)
The exhibition describes itself as 'addressing life, politics and identity in a globalised society'. Personally I found it to be a really interesting mix of different styles of work with varying strengths of messages. 
'A Ton of Tea, 2007' Compressed Pu-erh tea by Ai Wei Wei (b. 1957, Beijing)
The Exhibition is on until 17th July and I'd thoroughly recommend checking it out. I really enjoyed going across to both galleries and having a full day out getting my wool and art fix....of course followed by a night out in the pubs!

That should be enough to keep you going for now, until next time....peace out! x